The Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulled off a ridiculous 17-16 comeback victory over the New Orleans Saints in front of a prime-time audience on Monday night, and in the process may have saved their 2022 season. It was an emotional victory that had its fair share of individual heroes.
There was, of course, Tom Brady leading the 44th fourth-quarter comeback of his career to set a new NFL record. His two touchdown passes in the last four minutes of the game incredibly went to two different rookies, first tight end Cade Otton and then running back Rachaad White. Julio Jones turned in a marvelous clutch catch just before the winning core. Chris Godwin had eight catches while White and fellow back Leonard Fournette kept the chains moving with six grabs each.
Tampa Bay's defense gave Tom Brady a chance by allowing only one touchdown, turning three red zone chances for the Saints into field goals and forcing two punts in the last five minutes of the game. Outside linebacker Carl Nassib had two key stops late in the fourth quarter and safety Keanu Neal's timely hit on Taysom Hill gave the Buccaneers one last chance. Lavonte David was all over the field with 12 tackles, a sack and two stops for loss.
These are some of the candidates that Staff Writer/Reporter Brianna Dix and I have been mulling over since last night. After every Buccaneer victory this season, we are tasked with nominating two players for the singular honor of our Game Ball. Those two are then included in a list of four candidates…and then the final decision is up to you. After you review the cases we make for two of those players, you will find a link at the bottom of the page to place your vote.
Since we can't duplicate votes and getting the first pick could be important, we are going to alternate the order of our choices from week to week. It's Brianna's turn to go first.
So, who should get this week's Game Ball? Here are our suggestions.
Brianna Dix: OLB Carl Nassib
Scott, as you mentioned, many individual performances in last night's thrilling victory swayed the outcome. For the purposes of this game ball award – fueled by an excess amount of coffee - I am going to go with outside linebacker Carl Nassib. In the absence of the injured Shaq Barrett, Nassib has taken advantage of opportunities. He made many timely plays in Week 13's 17-16 win over the Saints, including a sack on Andy Dalton under the three-minute warning that provided hope and shifted the momentum. The surging rally began with a 91-yard touchdown drive after Nassib's pass deflection, blowing up a screen to Alvin Kamara and forcing a Wil Lutz field goal. A Cade Otton touchdown became the ensuing result and, on the defense's next possession, Nassib struck again. He flew around the edge for a 10-yard sack on Dalton which made it third-and-17 at the Saints' 18-yard line. Keanu Neal and Jamel Dean then jarred the ball loose from Taysom Hill's grasp on a third-down pass, providing the Bucs' offense one last shot.
Brady then directed a methodical 11-play, 63-yard drive, culminating in a Rachaad White touchdown in the final three seconds. If Nassib did not come up big on the aforementioned drive, the outcome could very well have been different and instead of a season sweep, the Bucs could have dropped their second-straight game. Nassib became a defensive catalyst in Week 13, accumulating a sack, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit, a pass deflection and two tackles. Nassib's read-and-reaction skills made a difference in the ballgame and fortified Tampa Bay's squad. He wreaked havoc around the line of scrimmage against both the run and pass, cementing his nomination for the Week 13 game ball. Scott, what about you?
Scott Smith: QB Tom Brady
Well, had I drawn the first straw for this exercise I would have been sorely tempted to choose Nassib. As you said, Breezy, Tom Brady might never have had the opportunity to pull off another miracle without a few very timely plays by the veteran pass-rusher.
Oh, but hey. I just noticed. Brady did pull off another miracle. The Buccaneers punted away with seven minutes left in regulation, down by 13, and still managed to get the victory. If I told you Team X accomplished that feat and asked you to guess who its quarterback was, who are you picking. Yeah, you know it, I know it. It's Tom Brady.
It is surreal how calmly Brady is able to get the job done in such circumstances. All he did on the Buccaneers' last two drives was complete 12 of 17 throws for exactly 100 yards and two touchdowns. His best pass of that whole sequence, an apparent touchdown dart to Chris Godwin in the tightest of windows in the back of the end zone, was actually overturned by a penalty. That could have been a backbreaker, seeing as their were only 16 seconds left in the game, but there was Brady moments later finding Rachaad White in the right flat for the five-yard game-winner.
Look, it wasn't a particularly glamorous game for anyone, including Brady. The Buccaneers only had three points through the first 57 minutes of the game. But this is why Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T. It doesn't matter that we've seen it before. It doesn't matter that he had done this 43 times before in his career. It's still incredible and heart-stopping and … well, you get it. It's the reason we watch. Brady just set an NFL record with his 44th career fourth-quarter comeback victory, and he did it as a Buccaneer, and he may have saved the season in the process. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Carl Nassib for making a couple huge plays to give Tom Brady a chance, but it was the touchdowns that won the game.
Who deserves the Game Ball for the Bucs' incredible comeback win over the Saints? Click here to cast your vote.